From Pillsbury Grange in Derbyshire, to the Colonies, to California and beyond
From a wonderful article by Lauren Raine Pillsbury
He landed in Massachusetts, an indentured servant (as that was how one paid for passage then), and eventually settled in a very frontier like Newbury, Mass. He and his children proliferated indeed, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire and continually west as well.
That document, uploaded in it's entirety, was a lot to plow through, but I couldn't stop reading it out of sheer interest. William Pillsbury (people took names based upon their trade, where they lived, or the names of their fathers when it was decreed in an earlier period that residents have surnames.) He was from the Peak District, and she mentions the River Dove. It seems that the little hamlet of Pilsbury, not far from where my friend lives, is where every Pillsbury in the United States originated from. The lovely valley that the Pilsbury hamlet is in is called Dovedale.
We drove to Pilsbury, of course. There is a Pilsbury Castle, a historical site with plans to refurbish, although there isn't really much to see. It was a Norman fortification, not really a "castle" so much as a mostly wooden fort with very simple dwellings surrounding it along the river. It would have mostly been occupied by Norman soldiers garrisoned in this outpost when the Normans were fighting the Saxons. To get to Pilsbury one has to drive along some small, winding roads, which involve opening and closing 4 or 5 gates, which are erected to keep cattle and sheep from wandering into areas they should not go.
I also learned that there are ruins in the area that indicate their might have been a monastery, or simple monastic community, in Pilsbury in medieval times as well, hence, the term "grange", which meant a rural area associated with or overseen by a church.
The following day we visited again, this time. coincidentally, with a friend of my friend (they do bell ringing together!) and her husband who lived in the other house next to the Lodge. This ancient dwelling has been extensively renovated by this couple, who have lived there for some 20 years and truly love this peaceful, isolated rural site along the Dove. When he heard me speak, he told me that, hearing my American accent, he figured another Pillsbury had turned up! Apparently he has had had a number of such visitors over the years, and he even provided a collection of articles and photos which other Pillsbury visitors provided him with in gratitude for his hospitality since 1989. I was the latest to turn up!
Finally we found ourselves at the last gate, and came upon what was collectively called "Pilsbury Grange". We were just in time to meet the land agent for a family that lives in London and rents out Pilsbury Lodge to visitors who come for walking tours in the "Peaks", as well as some excellent trout fishing in the river. It is a lovely site, with a deeply peaceful feel to it. One of three houses or manors that may have first been constructed in medieval times, and were renovated continuously to the present time, are occupied. The land agent kindly showed us around the large three story house that was unoccupied unless rented for holidays, or occupied by the family living in London. I is a three storied impressive manor which features massive ancient beams and a number of small, lovely bedrooms. I couldn't help but fantasize a group meeting there for a retreat, enjoying the river, the garden, the fireplaces and the apple orchard.
Lauren discovers Pilsbury:
In the bus depot I watched a little tribe of pigeons peck away at my feet while I considered whether I shouldn't head north instead of staying in Bath as I had intended. It would be good to see my friend, who I hadn't seen or much spoken to in almost 20 years. I was also momentarily enchanted by the birds, because one of them was pure white. I thought "what is a white dove doing here?".........(well, I suppose it was a pure white pigeon, but after all, pigeons are in the dove family! ) I wished I had something to offer it because it was so pretty, but alas, I had no crumbs on me.
The next morning I took a train toward Manchester, and met with them in their village. The Peak District, in central Great Britain, is famous for it's beautiful landscapes and hiking trails, and in the summer the English, who have a great passion for walking tours, head there. We talked about many things, and I know that our re-connecting after all these years helped both of us to better understand our daughter, and to heal a great deal for both of us. Circle. Big Circle. I parted with a friendship renewed, and gratitude. The timing could not have been more perfect.
So here come the
While looking at a map of the area where my friend lived (which I had never visited) I noticed, quite close to their village, a "Pilsbury". I thought that was interesting, since that is my family name (Pillsbury). I knew absolutely nothing about my father's genealogy, but this piqued my interest, and before going to visit, I spent the evening on Google. I learned that there were many Pillsburys besides the well-known bakers from Minnesota, and many of them had done great things - a famous inventor, a photographer, a philosopher and humanitarian, and many more. The family was big and spanned the coasts - there was a Lake Pillsbury in New Hampshire, and a Lake Pillsbury in Northern California as well. And they were all descendants (that includes me) of one man who emigrated quite early from England.
I stumbled on a document of births, deaths, and occasional obituaries collected by a Martha Pillsbury over 100 years ago, going back (as far as she could at the time) to one William Pillsbury, a young man who, under some kind of legal trouble or perhaps facing conscription during the reign of the tyrannical Charles the First, left England for the New World in the 1600's, considerably before the American Revolution.
I do note, by the way, that many of my photos have strange white spots in them.............I am of a romantic nature, and like to think it is a "thumbprint" of the ancestors, saying "hello" as yet another of their fortunate, and grateful, descendants turns up.
ps: I received an email from my friend in Darbyshire; she has a friend living in her village, an American named Deborah from Newbury, Massachusetts and also Boston. She was apparently so interested in my adventure that she looked up her own geneology tree, and learned that one of her ancestors had married a Mathias Pillsbury (her own name is not Pillsbury). Pretty amazing!
I don't know what to say about all of this.........it's quite magical, blessed, Circular, and synchronistic, and I somehow feel that a deeper honoring and connection has happened that I will understand better in the future.
Interior of one of houses in Pilsbury
Grate over well in Pilsbury Grange
View from house and apple tree towards valley and river in November
View from walled garden area